With dozens of medical alert systems on the market, it’s easier than ever to get immediate help when you fall or have an accident. While some people avoided the clunky medical alert bracelets or necklaces that used to accompany these systems, the newest medical alert watches combine safety and functionality with style. Medical alert watches have screens that display an analog or digital clock, and many have health-tracking features in addition to the standard GPS and emergency call functions.
What are the best medical watches?
Advancing technology in the medical alert industry has led to a wide variety of medical alert watches being added to the market. These watches and smartwatches come with a variety of options, including 24/7 monitoring. We evaluated the design, cost, features and monitoring service of each product to find the four best medical watches for seniors today.
What to consider when shopping for a medical alert watch
When searching for a medical alert watch for seniors, there are a few things you need to think about:
Cost: Many medical alert watches include some combination of an initial equipment fee and a monthly monitoring cost, but some only require one or the other. Medical Alert’s MobileElite, for example, does not require any initial payment for the watch but has a monthly monitoring fee.
Features: Buying a medical alert watch from a company with a monitoring center ensures you're connected to a professional who can dispatch emergency services. Many medical alert smartwatches also come with health-tracking features, such as a heart rate tracker or step counter. Others come with caregiver features that allow your loved ones to check on your location and health. People with mobility issues benefit from fall detection watches that send out an alert when the user falls and may not be able to call for help themselves.
Complexity: Medical wristwatches, especially smartwatches, have multiple useful features. These devices can be complicated, however, which leads many seniors to not using the full functionality of their alert system. In this case, a simpler watch might be more helpful.
Your activity level: Active seniors should consider the battery life of the watch and whether it is waterproof. A waterproof medical alert watch with a long-lasting battery ensures that you can call for help when you need it most.
Good medical alert watch overall Freedom Guardian by Medical Guardian
Freedom Guardian is a medical alert smartwatch backed by Medical Guardian’s highly rated monitoring center. Medical Guardian’s alert smartwatch comes in black or white and has an analog clock display. Every Freedom Guardian medical alert watch comes with 24/7 monitoring, a three-day weather forecast and the company's companion mobile app. Customers can add SMS messaging, calendar alerts and reminders with the purchase of the Freedom Guardian Plus.
The companion mobile app allows your caretaker to view your location and alert history, directly message you and add events and reminders to your day planner. Caretakers have no messaging limits, even on a basic plan.
MEDICAL ALERT WATCH DETAILS
Equipment cost: $129
Monthly fees: $45
Battery life: 48 hours
Monitoring & support: The U.S.-based monitoring center is available 24/7.
Good for simple use MobileElite by Medical Alert
Medical Alert's MobileElite is a straightforward alert watch without the extra functions of a smartwatch. In addition to the watch itself, customers receive a pendant and a portable base device about the size of a cell phone. The base device has a two-way speaker system that lets customers speak to a trained Medical Alert representative.
The company offers optional fall detection for an additional $10 a month. You do not need a smartphone to use this mobile medical alert watch.
MEDICAL ALERT WATCH DETAILS
Equipment cost: $0
Monthly fees: $37.95
Battery life: 36 hours
Monitoring & support: The response center is available 24/7.
Good budget medical alert watch Lively Wearable2 by GreatCall
GreatCall’s Lively Wearable2 does not have a display screen, but it does come with health-tracking features that many other medical alert watches do not have. You must connect the Lively Wearable2 to a smartphone to track your steps and set fitness goals. The Lively Wearable2 is only compatible with Android 7.0 or iPhone iOS 11 or later, so you may need to update your software before use. If you need emergency services, a locksmith, roadside assistance or a caregiver, you can press the 5Star button to connect with agents who get you the help you need. With the fall detection feature, GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response centers connect to you immediately if a fall is detected.
MEDICAL ALERT WATCH DETAILS
Equipment cost: $49.99
Monthly fees: $24.99
Battery life: 4 months
Monitoring & support: 5Star's urgent response agents provide 24/7 service.
Good for iPhone users Apple Watch Series 5 by Apple
The Apple Watch Series 5 detects falls and calls emergency services when the wearer presses and holds the side button. Apple does not offer monitoring features, however, so the watch contacts your local emergency service. The Series 5 has a wide array of features and apps, including reminders and alerts, weather notices, fitness tracking and heart rate tracking. The watch band comes in several colors, patterns and materials to completely customize the look.
Unfortunately, the lack of a monitoring service means that seniors cannot receive nonemergency help. Consumers have also reported that the speaker system is not loud enough for many seniors.
MEDICAL ALERT WATCH DETAILS
Equipment Cost: $399
Monthly fees: $0
Battery life: 18 hours
Monitoring & support: Apple does not offer monitoring services.
Medical alert watch FAQ
How do medical alert watches work?
Medical alert watches contact emergency services when the user falls or by the press of a button.
Monitored medical alert watches contact an agent in a monitoring center who determines your needs and contacts 911 if needed.
Unmonitored medical alert watches call 911 directly and are more likely to trigger false alarms.
For exact details on how each medical alert watch works, contact the company directly.
What’s the difference between medical alert watches and mobile systems?
Medical alert watches are a type of mobile medical alert system. These devices are discreet and often offer more than just GPS tracking as a feature. Typical mobile systems include a portable base system that you must also carry but have a simplified design and no need for a cell phone.
Can an Apple Watch be used as a medical alert?
The Apple Watch Series 5 can be used to call 911 and automatically alert emergency responders if you fall. Nevertheless, we recommend choosing a company that offers monitoring services with representatives that send the right kind of assistance and stay on a call with you until help arrives.
Are medical alert watches waterproof?
All of the medical alert watches we’ve recommended are water-resistant, and the Lively Wearable2 is also waterproof. In some cases, you can shower or swim while wearing the watch. However, do not attempt this without consulting the company.
Do medical alert watches require an activation fee?
The products we’ve listed have no activation fees, but other medical alert watches may require them. Be sure to check with the company about all fees before choosing a product.
Bottom line: Should I get a medical alert watch?
If you want the best protection for you or your loved one, you should invest in a medical alert watch. Medical alert watches allow seniors to remain active without worry, and they have a more modern look than many traditional devices. Seniors can decide if they want a watch with fall detection, health-monitoring apps, a long battery life, caregiver notifications and messaging. They can also choose a simple medical alert watch that gives them the help they need in an emergency.
Sandi Pope previously worked in the nonprofit sector as an advocate for environmental and social change and believes information access is a human right. As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, she seeks to provide consumers with the necessary information needed in making life-altering decisions.